Osteoporosis is a weakening of the bones that can lead to fractures that typically occur in the wrists, hips and spine. The National Osteoporosis Foundation lists a number of prescription medications that have been shown to be effective in the treatment of this condition. All of the drugs have potential side effects, including muscle and joint pain, abnormal heart rhythm, unusual bone fractures, esophageal tumors and osteonecrosis of the jaw. Osteonecrosis is the death of a segment of bone caused by an impaired blood supply.
There are a number of natural ways to prevent and treat osteoporosis. Before trying any of these methods or abandoning prescription medications, however, discuss changes in treatment with your doctor.
Exercise is a safe, healthy step you can take to slow osteoporosis that has a plethora of other benefits. Weight-bearing exercise builds and maintains bone mass. Examples of weight-bearing exercises are: jogging, dancing, weightlifting, step aerobics, hiking and racquet sports. According to studies, in addition to building bone density, exercise can also help strengthen muscles and improve balance, which may prevent falls.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation recommends 1,000 mg per day of calcium for people 50 and under, and 1,200 mg per day for those over age 50. High-calcium foods include low fat milk, cheese, spinach, collard greens, tofu, salmon, sardines, yogurt and ice cream. Vitamin D plays a crucial role in the way your body absorbs calcium. Most nutritionists recommends taking 800 to 1,000 international units of vitamin D per day.
The University of Maryland Medical Center cites evidence that a healthy level of vitamin K can reduce the risk of bone fractures, especially in postmenopausal women. Dietary sources include broccoli, spinach, cabbage, kale, asparagus, dark green lettuce, turnip greens and beef liver.
Several Medical Foundation and health advocates organizations recommend the use of calcium supplements for those who are unable to consume their daily requirement of calcium through food. Most of the medical organizations caution that the body can only absorb 500 mg of calcium at a time, so it is best to spread the supplements throughout the day. The Office of Dietary Supplements states that both calcium carbonate and calcium citrate are forms of calcium that are equally effective. For people with low levels of stomach acid, calcium citrate is more readily absorbed.
What to Avoid
Avoid diets that are high in protein and salt. According to medical studies, consuming too much protein may cause a loss of calcium through the kidneys, and eating too much salt can cause bone loss.
The medical and health advocates also advises limiting or avoiding caffeine, soft drinks, alcohol and smoking–all which decrease calcium absorption.